N.J. health care providers strive to improve treatment of LGBTQ patients



    Getting medical care is an important part of staying healthy, but many in the LGBTQ community report discrimination at the doctor’s office. Hospitals and medical systems in New Jersey are looking to make their services more inclusive.

    Cydney Savage directs adult outpatient mental health services at AtlantiCare, an organization recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as a leader in providing equality care. She was struck by the results of a survey done by Lambda Legal in 2010 on health care inequality.

    “People self-reported that they had been assaulted, that they were held responsible for their medical condition, not treated well,” she said.

    To counteract that, AtlantiCare did trainings for staff and changed the definition of family on patient visitation policies to be more inclusive of same-sex partners.

    Over five years, Savage said, hospitals and medical providers in New Jersey have followed suit with their own improvements.

    And the New Jersey Hospital Association recently hosted a forum for providers about how to better serve the LGBTQ community.

    That was welcome news to Aaron Potenza, director of programs at Garden State Equality, because he sees many patients traveling to Philadelphia’s Mazzoni Center or Manhattan’s Callen-Lorde Community Health Center for treatment.

    “It’s great that New York and Philadelphia have these resources. We want to make sure that New Jersey does as well,” he said.

    Potenza said he’s constantly asked about LGBTQ-friendly providers, so his organization is working on a crowd-sourced map of providers that patients prefer.

    “What a good visit looks like, is about not making assumptions,” he said. “If a person comes to you, whatever they look like, whatever their age, you know, let go of any preconceived notions that you have.”

    That advice is especially relevant when it comes to trans people and seniors, Potenza said.

    That map will be available in December.

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